Uncomfortable moments in early 007 films

Close captioned image from Dr. No

Over the past few days, there have been three stories (in LAD Bible, the Daily Mail and the Express) about how millennials (people becoming adults in the early 21st century) find early James Bond films lacking.

The stories rely heavily on posts on Twitter from those who complain that Bond is a rapist or comes across as “rapey.” There are also complaints about racism as well.

But many of the tweets don’t get into specifics. With that in mind, here are some scenes that might be generating that reaction.

In selecting these three examples, they’re about Bond himself. In the stories linked above, some of the posters on Twitter objected to, for example, Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), who appeared in Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The sheriff clearly was racist, but was devised by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz for the audience to laugh at and ridicule.

“Fetch my shoes” (Dr. No): While on Crab Key, Bond (Sean Connery) instructs Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) to, “Fetch my shoes.”

Quarrel, a Jamaican native, had been assisting MI6 operative Strangways. The latter’s disappearance spurred M to assign Bond to find out what happened to Strangways. That put him on the trail of Dr. No.

Anyway, Bond telling Quarrel to “fetch” his shoes wasn’t a major plot point. Bond, Quarrel and Honey are getting ready to hide out in Crab Key.

While Bond’s line doesn’t have good optics in the 21st century, it wasn’t so great in the 1960s, either. The U.S. civil rights movement already was well underway. The Montgomery bus boycott began in December 1955.

In 2014, a website called The Complainist  did a detailed analysis of Dr. No. Concerning “Fetch my shoes,” it said the following:

“Oh goddammit. Fetch you’re own shoes JB. Gross. Gross gross gross.”

Bond and Kerim laugh lecherously (From Russia With Love): In From Russia With Love, Connery’s Bond is talking to Pedro Armandariz’s Kerim about whether Tatiana’s offer to deliver a Soviet decoding machine is genuine.

Bond and Kerim enjoy a laugh together in From Russia With Love

Kerim is skeptical. “My friend, she has you dangling.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Bond replies. “All I want is that Lektor.”

“All? Are you sure that’s all you want?”

“Well…” Bond says. The two then laugh lecherously for about five seconds before we cut to the next scene.

The thing is, this is a big difference from Ian Fleming’s novel. Bond was afraid he might actually be falling for Tatiana. In the film, at least in this scene, there isn’t nearly as much emotion involved. It’s an example of the different worldview of the novels and films.

Bond’s roll in the hay with Pussy (Goldfinger): This is likely the source of the “rapist” and “rapey” comments.

Auric Goldfinger instructs Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) to show Bond around his horse farm to reassure CIA agents who are keeping an eye on the place.

Bond and Pussy eventually go inside a barn. They demonstrate their skills in self defense. After Bond throws Pussy to the ground, the agent says, “Now, let’s both play.”

Pussy resists for a while before embracing Bond.

Bond tries to secure Pussy’s cooperation in Goldfinger.

As depicted in the film, she appears to have been wooed over by Bond but it’s not until the very end of the scene.

It’s not just millenials who’ve commented about this sequence over the years. I’ve had discussions with first-generation 007 film fans who feel the scene gets very close to rape.

Just a year later, in Thunderball, the filmmakers allude to Goldfinger. Bond has gone to bed with SPECTRE killer Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). But she stays loyal to SPECTRE.

“What a blow it must have been,” she says to Bond.

“Well, you can’t win them all,” Bond says.

In the 1990s, director Guy Hamilton recorded comments about the film for a Criterion laserdisc home release that got recalled.

“I think this is one of the trickiest scenes in the movie,” the director said on the commentary track. “How to go from dy** to sexpot to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission and one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

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5 Responses

  1. I believe Honor Blackman has said she wasn’t troubled by the scene mentioned. Another scene in Thunderball when Bond and Patricia Fearing end up in the steam room is sometimes called rapey:

    Pat Fearing: You wouldn’t tell Doctor Wade? Please, I’d lose my job.
    Bond: Well, I, I suppose my silence could have a price.
    Pat Fearing: You don’t mean – oh, no.
    Bond: Oh, yes!

    But… the flirty interpretation would note that she believes Bond wouldn’t have had a near death experience moments before if she’s stayed in the room while he was on the stretching machine, and during the dialog above she backs into the steam room ahead of Bond.

    Quarrel is Bond’s assistant in Dr No, so “fetch my shoes” wasn’t out of place in the day, as bad as it sounds between races today. A “please”‘ or “could you?” wasn’t required then for it not to be rude. By making Dr No first they took some of the strength and depth out the of Quarrel of the books. And being black certainly made life tougher for the actor John Kitzmiller. He was an Army Captain in Italy during WWII. Afterward he stayed there in part to avoid the racism of life in the US. I wish he’d left a memoir. Much info here:

    http://www.blackpast.org/gah/kitzmiller-john-1913-1965

  2. it’s Really interesting How Most of these issues has become Taboo to a new Generation of Movie Fans. The People Making Films Back in the propose Golden Age of Cinema Never new other wise, But to Mirror films by What was Politically Correct even racism Back then. the World has Changed Since ”GONE WITH THE WIND” Today we have a Woman of Color Playing Miss. Money-penny in Bond films which is a Good Improvement, Something that would’ve Been Met with Great opposition During the 60s and even 70s Era.

  3. I find it utterly preposterous that people are now spending their time calling out older films for things they find offensive or politically incorrect.

    How far is this going to go? Book banning? Movie banning? Both would be subtle steps in the attempt to rewrite history.

    Is all you have to offer the world a pair of offensive tinted lenses? Has your generation been taught to see everything this way? It sure seems like it and the world is not becoming a better place as a result.

  4. Oh dear…more “millenials” offended. What a tragedy. When is George Orwell’s “newspeak” going to start being circulated? When I was a kid, I used to look forward to the future , but now that the inmates are taking over the asylum, I welcome the news of an impending demise from my doctor.
    I imagine a future 007 who’s gender-neutral, Left Wing Politically Correct ,won’t carry a gun,drives some ridiculous hybrid and attempts to have peace talks and offer to finance SPECTRE on behalf of Britain’s Labour Party, if they promise to stop being so nasty.
    If I’m still around by then, I’ll be rooting for Blofeld (who will also be gender-neutral and take a fancy to Bond)

  5. Reblogged this on Colonel Assignment – and thoughts about writings and the world.

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